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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bloggers Put THEIR Boots on the Ground

Michelle Malkin and Bryan from Hot Air have returned from their trip to Iraq....first off, for those of us that cannot go to Iraq to see and report firsthand on the happenings on the ground, Thank you Michelle and Bryan.

There are many of us that do our best to find quotes from our soldiers and our military to get the truth of what is happening in Iraq instead of just the grim milestones that the MSM chooses to show us without any other substance to their reporting and then we have those on the other side of the aisle that do not attempt to go to Iraq and simply spew the "partyline" for their party.

It took guts and determination for Michelle and Bryan to go to Iraq and they have come back with plenty of good AND bad to report on.

I will start with Michelle Malkin's piece which can be found here.

Last week, I embedded with U.S. Army troops at Forward Operating Base Justice in northern Baghdad. Outside the wire, we toured the slums and met with neighborhood leaders inching toward self-sufficiency in al Salam. We sipped chai with a sheikh who condemned terrorists on all sides. We watched residents bicker over a civil affairs blanket drop in Khadamiyah. We sat with slimy Mahdi Army apologists in Hurriya. We stopped by a Sunni insurgent enclave, which soldiers I patrolled with dubbed a “sniperville,” in al Adil.

There’s nothing glamorous or romantic about these missions. No one will make a movie about our men and women in uniform engaged in the tedious, painstaking business of moving Iraq toward stability and governability. But if the war is to be won—if security is to be established and the foundations of a civil society bolstered—this is ground zero. The troops I met ask only three things of their fellow Americans back home: time, patience, and understanding of the enormous complexities on the ground.


Here, a task force of brainy commanders, brawny patrol officers, courageous Arab-American interpreters, wizened trainers and intel gatherers, baby-faced convoy drivers, and grim-humored gunners attempts to put President Bush's "winning hearts and minds" idealism into daily practice.

Modern war in the Middle East is no longer as cut-and-dry as shooting all the bad guys and going home. We are fighting a "war of the fleas"--not just Sunni terrorists and Shiite death squads, but multiple home-grown and foreign operators, street gangs, organized crime, and freelance jihadis conducting ambushes, extrajudicial killings, sectarian attacks, vehicle bombings, and sabotage against American, coalition, and Iraqi forces. Cellphones, satellites, and the Internet have allowed the fleas to magnify their importance, disseminate insurgent propaganda instantly, and weaken political will.

I came to Iraq a darkening pessimist about the war, due in large part to my doubts about the compatability of Islam and Western-style democracy, but also as a result of the steady, sensational diet of “grim milestone” and “daily IED count” media coverage that aids the insurgency.

I left Iraq with unexpected hope and resolve.

The everyday bravery and consummate professionalism of the troops I embedded with has strengthened my faith in the U.S. military. These soldiers are well aware of the history, culture, and sectarian strife that has wracked the Muslim world for more than a millennium. “They love death,” one gunner muttered as we heard explosions in the distance while parked in al Adil. Nevertheless, these troops are willing to put their lives on the line to bring security to Iraq, one neighborhood at a time.


The troops I met scoff at peace activists’ efforts to “bring them home now.” But they are just as critical of the Bush administration and Pentagon’s missteps—from holding Iraqi elections too early, to senselessly breaking up their brigade combat team, to drawing down forces and withdrawing last year in Baghdad and Fallujah, to failing to hold cities after clearing them of insurgents. They speak candidly and critically of Shiite militia infiltration of some Iraqi police and Iraqi Army units and corruption in government ministries, but they want you to know about the unseen good news, too.

Go read the whole thing... it is well worth your time. She will also be publishing an exclusive with the New York Post on the Associated Press "media malpractice" which promises to be good.

Bryan at Hot Air has an in depth review noting the mistakes that have been made, the difficulties posed to our troops and the way to win in Iraq..... from the soldiers and military's perspective, which is what the major MSM here in the US always purposely neglects to let the American public hear about.

Before setting off on this post, I want to stress that I don’t think spending a few days in Baghdad has turned me into an expert on the war. I’ve followed the war like you have since it began and obviously following the conflict day to day informs what I think about things. But I’ve now been in Iraq and I’ve seen the war up close. So while I don’t claim to be an expert, I guess you could call me a quick study.

This post is mostly about mistakes. The troops didn’t sit down with us and tick off all the mistakes that they think we have made in Iraq to date, so what follows isn’t their gripe list being published under my name. They did answer our questions forthrightly and we learned much from interviewing them and just talking with them over chow and listening to their crosstalk in the Humvees. So this post is made up of my observations after seeing the war up close and following it from afar, including mistakes, fumbles and ways forward to win–and what victory actually looks like.

He then goes on to to list seven different points to start with...

#1 "No plan for the post war period."

#2 "Leaving iran Alone" where he says:

An intelligence officer in Iraq (not at Camp Justice), used the phrase “uninterrupted flow of weapons and ammunition” when I asked him how much Iran was influencing the violence in Iraq. The fact is, Iran has been sending more and more weaponry into Iraq in the past year to 18 months, and it has been assisting the insurgents and the militias (Shia and Sunni alike) in supplying what the Army calls “explosive force projectile” IEDs. These EFP-IEDs are easily hidden and incredibly destructive, and their construction is simply beyond the ability of the warring groups within Iraq. Iranian Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard trainers have been directly assisting and training the militias as well, making them more dangerous to the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi people and to our troops. Iran must be dealt with and it must be taken out of Iraq, or Iraq will remain a violent, lethal place for our troops and its people. As long as Iranian arms and expertise get into Iraq uninterrupted, Iraq will not become stable and our troops will have to remain there in large numbers. The Iranians want Iraq to remain unstable and they want us to have to keep a large force there dealing with the insurgents, terrorists and militias, which is why the ISG’s belief that chaos in Iraq is against Iran’s interests was met with such derision by the troops in Iraq. And believe me, it was.

#3 on his list was "Pullbacks and soft failures. Leaving Moqtada al-Sadr alive was a mistake"

#4 "Iraqi Elections held too early.

#5 "Misunderstanding the fundamentals"

#6 "Assuming Iraq will conform only to unreasonable expectations which are based on ignorance of counterinsurgency warfare."

The troops in Iraq will tell you about three successful American occupations if you ask them–the Philippines, Japan and Germany. The latter two took five years to go from defeated enemy to ally, and decades after that before they really stood on their own feet. The Philippine insurgency took 8 years to quell and that country still has myriad problems that keep it from enjoying true First World status a century after the US put down its insurgency. Iraq is a far more complex place than either Japan, Germany or the Philippines and should therefore be expected to take longer to make the full transition to standalone state. But not knowing the history of America’s counterinsurgency operations has led us to want quick, clean victory where it just isn’t possible and never was.

#7. "Media misconduct and malpractice leading to flagging homefront morale."

This one isn’t so much a mistake as just part of the modern world. The media is incurious, generally unethical in its approach to reporting Iraq and far more skeptical of the US military than it is of the insurgents, the militias and even the Iranians. The media hardly ever reports on victories in Iraq because the kinds of things that demonstrate real success just aren’t sexy, and perhaps because at their core they don’t believe in victory. It’s sexy to talk about US troops engaging insurgents on Haifa Street and killing every last one of them, but that’s not a real victory in the terms that govern the Iraq conflict. Street fights and reports about them play into the enemy’s hands, in fact. The media poo-poos events like the re-opening of schools in Iraq because as defined on American terms, re-opening a school doesn’t mean much at all. But in Iraq, the re-opening of a school represents a community in the end state of achieving normalcy. A community that has a functioning school also has a liveable level of security, it has functioning services like power and water and has families that aren’t so worried about local violence that they won’t send their children outside their homes. It means there are probably jobs in the area, and it means that those jobs give families a level of economic security where they can think about their children’s future. Re-opening a school in Iraq means civil society itself has returned to that school’s community. It’s a big deal. But the media doesn’t understand that and doesn’t care to, preferring to focus on combat operations and sectarian killings while it farms its daily reporting duties out to very dubious agents and stringers. The MSM’s methods in Iraq feed the insurgency’s propaganda needs and damage our efforts to win.

His assessment is harsh on our administration as well as on the ignorance of the politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle, but his last paragraph is very noteworthy:

Having said all of this, Iraq is still very winnable. There are mistakes in every war. Iraq is a hideously complex environment to work in and its complexity has to be taken into account. Communities like Al Salam and Khadimiyah in Baghdad prove that at the end of the day most Iraqis value security and the chance to have a normal life above any notions of jihad and sectarianism, and we can work with most Iraqis to make their country safe. Most Iraqis want our troops there now, just not forever. Our troop morale is very high and they are focused on goals that they believe are attainable and will make Iraq stable. Most of the troops we spoke with support the surge; a minority don’t but it doesn’t seem to be a contentious issue. Democracy in Iraq probably won’t look like democracy here when the fight is over (and presuming that we here at home see it through), but if we correct our mistakes and change the media and political dynamics here, we can and should win. The price of failure is that Iraq would become a true hub for an al Qaeda that would see its “victory” in Iraq as Somalia times 100. Iraqi oil dollars would fuel this new terrorist power as long as Iraq’s oil infrastructure holds out. From secure bases in Iraq, the terrorists’ aims and capabilities would be practically limitless. Faith in America as a war ally would be shaken from Europe to Asian and everywhere else.

So whether we win ugly or pretty, we have to win. And we can.

Please go read both of their articles, they literally risked their lives in going to Iraq so that they could come back and let us know the realities on the ground.

They do not portray everything is rosy, but they also came back understanding that everything is also NOT lost as we are constantly being told by the MSM.

There are quite a few that are not satisfied with hearing only the death tolls that the American public is having shoved down its throat without any of the progress or successes that our soldiers are accomplishing as I show in part 21 of my series "Good News From Iraq" which I wrote yesterday, so they are putting their boots on the ground to let us know the truth.

Another citizen journalist that is in Iraq is Bill at INDC Journal, so please go visit his site and if you appreciate the work they are putting in, put a little something in the tip jar to help him pay for his travels.

We all are benefiting from their work, so lets help a little also.

Again, my heartfelt thanks to those that are doing what some of us cannot and helping us to understand the "full" picture.